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Methodism in Studham

Studham Methodist church April 2007
Studham Methodist church April 2007

Wesleyanism can be traced back in Studham to at least 1843 when the meeting was one of the founding members of the Dunstable Wesleyan Circuit. On Sunday 30th March 1851 a census of all churches, chapels and preaching-houses of every denomination was undertaken in England and Wales. The local results were published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1975 as Volume 54, edited by D.W.Bushby. The return for theWesleyan Methodist Preaching House was made by George Sears, a local preacher from Markyate Street, who noted that the house could hold 60 but the congregation that evening had been 37.

The Studham Methodist Church Centenary Book, published in 1861 refers to the early days at Studham: "The moral state of the village was, it would appear from the records, at a very low ebb at that time; much active and sustained opposition was encountered by the small, but devoted, band of workers. During a service in the open, for instance, a gun was fired over the head of a brother whilst he was praying, but he did not lose his self-possession and continued as if nothing had happened". Sadly, none of the records referred to have been deposited with Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service.

Volume 110 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1996 and edited by Edwin Welch contains registrations of Bedfordshire nonconformist meetings drawn from a number of sources. The first known registration of a Wesleyan meeting was at a building formerly used as a timber storehouse by George Barnard in 1853. This is, no doubt, the meeting reporting to the Census of 1851. This registration was cancelled in 1866 as, in 1861, a purpose built chapel had been registered by Joseph Midgley of London Road, Luton, minister, the chapel being licensed for marriages in 1869.

In 1865 a subscription list was got up to help pay for the new chapel. The introduction, by James Little, read as follows [MB440]: The Studham Wesleyan Methodist Chapel has been built by Mr. Barnett of Studham for the accommodation of the members of the Society and the benefit of the surrounding population. It is built on his own land and not yet conveyed to Trustees. It is the anxious desire of Mr. Barnett and of other friends to make up the deficiency of the amount due and get the Chapel settled so that in perpetuity it may be settled as a place for worship".

From 1846 to 1880 Studham formed part of the Luton Wesleyan Circuit, changing to the Chapel Street Wesleyan Circuit in that year. In 1932 Wesleyan, Primitive and United Methodists came together to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain and in that year Studham moved into the Luton Methodist Circuit. Ten years later it joined the Harpenden Circuit. The present Methodist chapel in the village was built in 1965, replacing the 1861 structure.